The SEC announced Friday that Dec. 29 and 30 will be the the start dates for conference games in men’s basketball, meaning league games will begin roughly a week earlier than they have the past two seasons. The news comes after the NCAA Division I Council approved a Nov. 25 start date for college basketball season last week.
It won’t be the first time SEC teams have played each other in December, though, as there were a handful of conference games at the end of December in both 2016 and 2017. The SEC is planning to play an 18-game league slate like normal in the upcoming season and is also planning to participate in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge in late January.
The 10 games in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge could be critical for the league to build its collective postseason resume as basketball season approaches with uncertainty still swirling over what the nonconference schedule will entail. Logistics for several early-season tournaments remain in flux amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and several SEC teams have still not released their 2020-21 schedules.
All Division I programs will be permitted to begin practice on Oct. 14 and conduct up to 30 practices leading up to the beginning of the season. With the Pac-12’s move to reverse course on its original decision to restrict teams from playing before Jan. 1, all of college basketball’s major conferences are expected to attempt to play nonconference games.